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A Christmas Letter to Peter Jackson from an American Ape-watcher
Dear Peter Jackson,
When King Kong opened here in the U.S. 10 days ago, I felt ambivalent in the extreme. A 25-foot tall, bellowing, T Rex-battling big-screen ape bears little resemblance to the gentle, intuitive gorillas I've filmed for years now with my camcorder at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park in Washington, DC.
Before the movie's opening, zookeepers and researchers around the world flooded our internet gorilla forum with anxious speculation. We all knew that actor Andy Serkis hung out with wild gorillas in Africa before shooting his scenes as Kong. Would he get the knuckle-walking right? Would moviegoers glean any sense of gorillas' keen intelligence and subtle communication, or would King Kong perpetuate the myth of gorillas as mindless aggressive beasts? Entering my neighborhood theatre, I pulled out a yellow pad and grimly settled in to take technical notes.
But over the next three hours, something startling happened, something foreshadowed early on by a piece of throwaway dialogue. "It's not an adventure story, is it?" asks Jimmy, an adolescent boy who clutches a worn copy of Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Slowly, it dawns on Jimmy that Conrad wanted to explore human nature as much as he did the Belgian Congo. Jimmy's question applies to your movie, too.
Your King Kong is not an adventure story. Nor are Hollywood spinmeisters right when they label it as an interspecies love story. It's a heartbreaking tragedy, pure and simple. When I wept at the end, it wasn't only because of what happens between Kong and Ann Darrow, but also because you so beautifully symbolize the shameful history of human exploitation of apes, that lethal combination of cruelty and indifference that continues even now.
I'm no groupie; parts of your film are downright infuriating. The images of Skull Island's dark-skinned inhabitants, adorned with spikes and gibbering in a language that sounds like a version of Elvish imported from your last movie, set anthropology back 200 years. When Kong appeared, I gazed into his eyes and saw - well, not much, and certainly not the vital spark that enlivens the eyes of real gorillas. When Kong beat his chest, roared, and clutched the shrieking Ann, I snapped shut my pad in disgust.
But the movie evolves and so does Kong - or rather, so does our comprehension of Kong's true nature. Slowly, as Kong and Ann begin to trust each other, Kong's eyes take on depth. Mirrored there, we see curiosity, love, fear, and eventually, resignation. Slowly, as his behavior diverges from the gorilla-run-amok stereotype, it diversifies; Kong is protective, then tentatively playful, then lovingly playful. (Counted among my Christmas gifts this year is the incomparable skating scene.)
Most powerful of all are the images through which you hurtle back to the bad-old days of natural history, when rifle-toting safari-men trapped and shackled gorillas for display-- or killed them outright. As I suspect you know, the past is with us still. Today in Africa, gorillas are dying, dying in the thousands and thousands. We humans cut down their habitat. We humans sell gorillas as beef for other humans to eat. We humans admire "the big monkeys" we see in zoos or at the movies, rarely bothering to get the taxonomy right and much more significantly, not caring quite enough to insist that the killing and destruction stop. At a terrifyingly profound level, a level far deeper than how gorillas move or communicate, you've captured in King Kong the reality of ape lives.
Yet I fear that audiences will leave the theatre fixated solely on Kong's punching a dinosaur or falling for the blonde gal. So here's the pitch. When the time rolls around to create the DVD version of King Kong, how about including a lavish, on-location-in-Africa, scientifically accurate mini-movie? Even five minutes might do it. Report the numbers of dead gorillas in Africa and the reasons why they are dying. Most importantly, tell people how to stop it. Send them to www.dianfossey.org or www.bushmeat.org And if you're visiting Washington DC, come look into the eyes of the gorillas with me. You'll feel no ambivalence, I promise.
Merry Christmas from a grateful apewatcher,
Barbara J. King
--Barbara J. King is an anthropologist and author at the College of Willliam and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, USA
Jonathan Simon & VerifiedVoting.org
Jonathan Simon has no affiliation with VerifiedVoting.org, and VerifiedVoting.org does not endorse the views expressed in this article. I believe that the statement that Mr. Simon is associated with VerifiedVoting.org is a simple editing error.
Please correct this error in your article.
Founder and Chairman of the Board of VerifiedVoting.org
[Scoop has corrected the error and aplogises for any confusion caused.]
Just wanted to thankyou for the awesome work that you've done on Scoop this year!I subscribed to a few of your features his year and it has been great (and very interesting)! Keep up the good work!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.
great site, read it every day!
Any plans to update the sites font from time roman? just seems hard to read, compared to any new fonts. i know its old school and the university specifies it etc, but be progressive! ha ha! have a good xmas
Disappointed with Evelyn Pringle's article on Dan
I am very disappointed you ran Evelyn Pringle's article on Dan Olmsted; its bad enough that Mr. Olmsted has a bully pulpit to promote nonsensical non-science, but to have other reporters praise him is just too much.
I don't want to waste my time or yours on every reason why Olmsted is an idiot, but let me pick just one of his ideas to utterly demolish.
He claims the Amish don't have Autism, and that is because they haven't been exposed to vaccines containing mercury. I happen to live and work near the North-Central Indiana Amish Community and am quite familiar with the Amish. Olmsted's theory that they don't vaccinate is wrong; they do not have a religious prohibition against vaccination, and in fact were cooperative when there was a polio outbreak among the Amish a few years ago.
The tendency for autism and Asperger's is usually inherited, scientists have recently taken to calling it "essential" autism. You can also get autism from in-utero trauma from disease, alcohol, drugs, etc. but you can usually sort them out from "essential autism" because they often are retarded and have facial deformities.
Clearly mercury could not cause the "non-essential" autism, and as for the genetic "essential autism", the Amish could not possibly make a useful study group because of their genetic isolation. The Amish are mostly descended from only about 200 families and are now genetically heavily inbred, so genetic diseases are either predominate, or non- existent; they genetically bear no resemblance to a normal population. Another leg to knock out from Mr. Olmsted's Amish theories is the fact that the Amish practice "shunning". Anyone who does not conform is expelled. This very effectively removes anyone who is non-conforming from their gene-pool, and Asperger's and the Amish way of life would not co-exist well!
There have been no surveys to establish any kind of statistics on prevalence or lack of autism in any Amish community either. In fact, other than some studies in Japan and Europe which showed absolutely no connection between autism and vaccinations, there haven't been any studies which baseline what the prevalence of autism is in anywhere. The often bandied-about figure of 1 in 166 came from Atlanta Georgia, but is probably grossly inflated because people with autism move to urban areas to get services, and the engineers, scientists and professors with Aspergers who are genetically predisposed to breed autistic children generally live exclusively in urban areas, since there are very few jobs for them in rural areas.
Any scientist would instantly recognize how inane Mr. Olmsted's assumptions are, and I and many other scientists have pointed this out to him, yet he continues in his Quixotic quest. Ordinarily I would be content to ignore his rants, but children are dying for lack of vaccinations, and in bogus chelation therapies because of the bogus information Olmsted and others print.
Evelyn could easily have checked this out with a little Googling, but she obviously doesn't Google anything besides "Autism Mercury". By the way, I've been to New Zealand; nice country you have there!
Thomas Wants His America Back
To whom it may concern,
"The Bush administration simply cannot answer this one question - if time was of the essence, why didn't they conduct the searches and get the warrants after the fact, something that is allowed under the FISA law? They conducted the searches alright, but they never once sought the retroactive warrants."
It's time for you to get on with reporting the facts and stop the propaganda machine that you are a part of. Nobody wants to hear your lies anymore! You are just as responsible as everyone else because you hid the truth about this administration for a very long time. Put yourself in my shoes and ask yourself what would you do to bring back the constitution and civil liberties. I want my America back!
[Scoop also acknowledges the several other pieces of feedback making precisely the same point.]
Kennedy Editorial refers to incident later determined to be a hoax
"Bush Isn't Listening to the Constitution - Kenned" includes the section " Just this past week there were public reports that a college student in Massachusetts had two government agents show up at his house because he had gone to the library and asked for the official Chinese version of Mao Tse-tung's Communist Manifesto. Following his professor's instructions to use original source material, this young man discovered that he, too, was on the government's watch list.
Think of the chilling effect on free speech and academic freedom when a government agent shows up at your home - after you request a book from the library.
Incredibly, we are now in an era where reading a controversial book may be evidence of a link to terrorists.
Something is amiss here. Something doesn't make sense. We need a thorough and independent investigation of these activities. "
There has been an investigation of that particular "incident". It never happened.
A report by the original source, retracting the story and detailing how the hoax was uncovered.
A Christmas message to the PC brigade
Letter to the Editor
A Christmas message to the PC brigade who are trying to take Christ out of Christmas. No matter how hard you try, it can't be done. You cannot change the facts. You cannot change history, you cannot change that a baby was born in a manger to young virgin, a baby that was born to give hope to those in the past, the future and now, those open and willing enough to accept that they need a Saviour. That said, Jesus is the reason for the season and always will be. There is no Christmas without Christ. Merry CHRISTmas!!
The 2004 stolen election was just the start of the abolition of vote counting in the U.S.
While some Americans (fewer than the media believe) will accept the proposition that the 2004 Exit Polls were off by 5%, how many would believe the 2005 results on Vote reform Issue Three?
Issue Three drew an extremely broad range of support. The Sunday Dispatch poll showed it winning in a landslide, with 61% in favor and just 25% opposed.
Tuesday's official results showed Issue Three going down to defeat in perhaps the most astonishing reversal in Ohio history, claiming just 33% of the vote, with 67% opposed.
Is it possible that the public quietly accepts a 42% ABSOLUTE increase in the "NO" vote from Sunday to Tuesday as anything other than vote fraud?
APPARENTLY YES - The media has been silent. Even the blogs are silent.
Is there any reason to believe that the U.S. will ever see an honest vote again? I am not optimistic.
To the Editor and Co-Editor of Scoop Magazine, NZ:
Not only is every claim made by the author not verifiable but verifiably misleading and untrue. She paints a grim picture of “more Israeli soldiers than ever before” and an “apartheid wall all around Bethlehem” designed “to break the spirit and dignity of the Palestinian people”. She then declaims “what Israel is doing to Christ’s birthplace” where a “Christian population continues to drop in numbers from these harsh policies”. (emphasis mine). In short, she asserts falsehoods as facts in order to blame Israel for a collapsed economy and overall oppression forcing Christians to flee and monks to relocate to Jerusalem.
Israel asserts that (here):
There is no barrier (completely encircling) Bethlehem. There is only a fence where the Bethlehem area interfaces with Jerusalem and close to the 1949 armistice line. Only a very small segment of the fence is a concrete wall preventing terrorists from shooting at motorists.
The economy has actually improved significantly. While 110,000 tourists visited the city during 2004, more than 218,000 have already visited Bethlehem during 2005 - an increase of around 100%. There have been corresponding increases in Bethlehem's main industries: Textiles 50%, Stone and marble export 40%, commercial transportation 20%. These increases have brought millions of dollars into the local economy.
Khoury’s article opts to dissimulate that "Half of the Israeli terror fatalities in 2004 came from attackers who entered Jerusalem from Bethlehem" (Jerusalem Post, 19 December. 2005) and indeed any balanced reporting that might help the reader understand a complex situation on the ground. It portrays the Mideast conflict as simply one between Israeli and Palestinian, but there are many incidents of Muslim persecution of Christians in the Holy Land as described among others by journalist Joseph Farah, an Arab American, (here), by David Raab (here) and in a downloadable report entitled “Palestinian Treatment of Christian Arabs” (here).
As your magazine describes itself as a “fiercely independent” “news agency accredited to the New Zealand Parliament which publishes articles “not hateful and not defamatory”, I would appreciate a response explaining why you have allowed such a biased defamatory article to appear in your fine publication.
Yours faithfully, B. Ross Montreal, Canada
 In the 1980’s the Christians composed over 80% of Bethlehem’s population. In 1995, under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority’s tookover administration of Bethlehem and immediately expanded its borders to include 30,000 Moslems and, consequently, “Christians have suffered civil outrage and criminal violence without recourse to justice.” Having dwindled to a mere 12% in 2005, “The result will be that in the place where Jesus was born there will no longer be a Christian community” (Hiller in FrontPageMagazine and Jihadwatch )
Khoury is also silent on the Vatican’s recent and unprecedented solicitation of the Israeli government to intercede on behalf of the dwindling Christian population fleeing Moslem persecution: Father Artemio Vitores, who, in his capacity of supervisor of the holy places in Israel and the Palestinian Authority for the Vatican, recently and publicly asked Israel’s President Moshe Katsav, “Help us keep Bethlehem.”
Khoury dissimulates the historical fact that Israel is the only administration in 2000 years in law and in practice to foster religious freedom in the region. In fact, if Christian Arabs move to Jerusalem, it is not to flee Israeli persecution but rather to the protection and religious tolerance afforded them there by Israeli administration and law.
Haiku: U.S. Empire
Consume earth wage wars Machines rape land and people Cherry blossoms burn
Jesus Is A Jew!
Ms Fraser [Dec 12] talks of Jesus as a Palestinian. Now can we have the poem that follows from the accurate source which describes him as a Jew?
Regarding the article: US Soldiers to America: Bring Us Home Now To: Jay Shaft & Web Site Staff
US Soldiers to America: Bring Us Home Now
Wow !! It always amazes me that someone can interview five soldiers (out of approx 130,000) and come to the conclusion that the "Other" 129,995 soldiers are "ALL" in agreement with the "five".
This web site says "Independent News". I believe the correct title should be "Typical Left Wing Liberal Whacko News". It goes like this. Run out into the world. Find five (or less) people that agree with your whacked out views. Interview them. And then announce to the world that "ALL" the American people agree with you.
The true Americans (Conservatives) are on to you left-wingers. You have lost almost all your political positions in the government and will continue to lose more positions. The real Americans (Conservatives) have spoken and our “Conservative” government will only get stronger.
Brian from Ohio...A True American
Truth Must Indeed Be Our Highest Priority
The media, and a number of politicians appear to be perpetuating a myth, said myth being "the separation of church and state". I would invite the media, politicians, and the public at large to read the following article, for a sound refutation of this oft repeated error: http://www.noapathy.org/tracts/mythofseparation.html
The truth must indeed be our highest priority.
Insults from you are flattery for me!
Norman J. Caldera
Scoop management and news team, thank you very much for the excellent service thus far in 2005 and I wish you all the best in 2006.
Stan Ritova Whippy, Fiji Times columnist in Sydney.